Sunday, February 10, 2013

you have lung cancer

Forget how Hollywood and TV misportrays the moment in time ... can anyone forget the first time they heard those words, "you have lung cancer"? Time itself is suspended.

I can remember every detail of that damn office on Feb. 9th, 2012 as my daughter and I nervously talked around lung cancer while waiting and waiting and waiting. Finally Timothy Clark, MD arrived and after introducing himself to my daughter sat at his computer terminal and pulled up my biopsy results.

“Malignant” and “tumor” were the only two words to explode out of the rest of the verbal noise.
tumor specimen report - 8 mm left lung nodule
“Well-differentiated adenocarcinoma, favor lung primary” was the actual diagnosis. There were more words bouncing around in the noise “CK7 and TTF are positive, CK20 is negative”. Or maybe they were in my copy of the pathologist’s report I stared at later.

My first thought was to glance at my daughter the ONLY person on earth I trusted to keep the results secret and who actually wanted to be with me that day … our eyes spoke.

Strangely I even found myself smiling at how interjecting my wife’s Multiple Sclerosis dementia and short term memory loss into the moment would have played out – she’d forget why we were even there and just want a ciggie. J

As a spouse caregiver of 22+ years I was once again impressed with the accuracy of my lay person self-diagnosis and had to resist jumping up to hi-five my pulmonologist before returning the agenda to “how long do I have to live”? 

I can be dizzying with the stream of consciousness way I ask questions … but it’s me. 

Leaving my daughter and I alone in his office in case we wanted some private time, we agreed we both were “hoping it was benign”. 

Somehow I avoided the tacky Lion King exchange between Mufasa and young Simba about looking up at stars (and I paraphrase) “whenever you feel alone, just remember I will always be there to guide you”.

We never met with him again due to his financial legal problems and in retrospect not having a pulmonologist in your corner is not the best idea beginning a lung cancer odyssey … however having my daughter’s optimism in my corner was better than the best of possible ideas.

Patrick Leer
Health Activist:
Caregivingly Yours, MS Caregiver @



  1. Lots of cancer days are burned into my brain. Hopefully I live long enough for them to fade away. (That is a joke...I don't think tragic experiences ever go away.)

    Take good care, Patrick.